Romance of Bible Chronology Vol 1: M Anstey Part 3



(AN. HOM. 1-1056.)

THE opening verse of Genesis speaks of the Creation of the heavens, and the earth, in the undefined beginning. From this point we may date the origin of the world, but not the origin of man. For the second verse tells of a catastrophe - the earth became a ruin, and a desolation. The Hebrew verb hayah (hayah = to be) here translated was, signifies not only "to be" but also "to become," "to take place," "to come to pass." When a Hebrew writer makes a simple affirmation, or merely predicates the existence of anything, the verb hayah is never expressed. Where it is expressed it must always be translated by our verb to become, never by the verb to be, if we desire to convey the exact shade of the meaning of the Original. The words tohu va-bohu (tohu va- bohu), translated in the A.V. "without form and void" and in the R.V. "waste and void" should be rendered tohu, a ruin, and bohu, a desolation. They do not represent the state of the heavens and the earth as they were created by God. They represent only the state of the earth as it afterwards became - "a ruin and a desolation." This interpretation is confirmed by the words of Isaiah 45:18, "He created it not tohu (a ruin): He formed it to be inhabited (habitable, not desolate)." This excludes the rendering of Gen. 1:2 in the A.V. and the R.V. as decisively as the Hebrew of Gen. 1:2 requires the rendering of hayah by the word "became " instead of the word "was," or better still "had become," the separation of the Vav from the verb being the Hebrew method of indicating the pluperfect tense.

The noble Cathedral, once a perfect work of art, with its crowds of devout worshippers, becomes, with the lapse of ages, a dilapidated ruin. Forsaken by those who once frequented its hallowed courts, it becomes a desolation. Similarly the words of Gen. 1:2, "And the earth became without form and void" are intended to convey to us the fact that the cosmos, once a beautiful and perfect whole, became a "ruin" and a "desolation." What the cause of this catastrophe was, we are not told, though some speculative interpreters have connected it with the fall of Satan. We know neither the cause, nor the time, nor the manner in which the calamitous change took place. There is no point of contact between the Hebrew tohu "ruin" and the Greek conception of chaos, the primeval, shapeless, raw material out of which the world was formed. Genesis 1:2 does not describe a stage in the process of the creation, but a disaster which befell the created earth the original creation of the heavens, and the earth, is chronicled in Gen. 1:1. The next verse, Gen. 1:2, [PAGE 63] is a statement of the disorder, the ruin, and the state of desolation into which the earth subsequently fell. What follows in Gen. 1:3- 31 is the story of the restoration of a lost order by the creative word of God. Between the creation of the heavens and the earth "in the beginning" (Gen. 1:1) and the catastrophe by which they became a "ruin" and a "desolation" (Gen. 1:2) we place those countless ages required by the geologist for the formation of the various strata of the earth's crust, and the fossil remains embedded therein.

The length of time described by the Hebrew word Yom = day, as used in this chapter, cannot be definitely determined. The word itself is frequently used to express a long period, an entire Era. The time occupied by the whole process of the six days' work is referred to in Genesis 2:4 as "the day that the Lord God made the heavens and the earth." The use of the expression "and evening came and morning came - day one" (Gen. 1:5; repeated Gen. 1:8,13,19,23,31) seems to suggest a literal day as measured by the revolution of the earth on its axis, but it cannot be said to be proved that the writer is not here using the words "evening and morning" in a figurative sense, for the commencement and the completion of whatever period he intended to mark by his use of the word "day." In the same verse (Gen. 1:5) the word "day" is used to mark a still briefer period, viz. that portion of the day when it is light.

The attempt to parcel out the six days' work into the six geological Eras, to which they somewhat roughly, but by no means accurately correspond, cannot be regarded as a satisfactory explanation of the writer's intention and meaning. There may be certain analogies between the order of Creation as described in the first chapter of Genesis, and the order of the formation of the various strata of the crust of the earth as read by the geologist, and in the order of the occurrence of the fossil remains which are found embedded in the stratified layers of the earth's crust, for God's works are all of a piece but there are also great and manifest divergencies, and these are so great, and so manifest that the two series cannot be said to run absolutely parallel with each other, or to perfectly correspond. The natural interpretation of the narrative, to one who recognizes the greatness of the power of God, is that which understands the chapter as a record of the creation of the world in six literal days; but it cannot be denied that the word "day" may have been used by the writer in a figurative sense, and intended by him to indicate a more extended period corresponding to a geological Era of time.

The creation of Adam took place on the sixth day after the creation of light. Whether this sixth day is to be interpreted as the sixth literal day, as measured by the space of time required for the revolution of the earth upon its own axis, or as a sixth geological Era, must remain uncertain, as there is nothing in the Hebrew Text to decide between the more precise and the more extended connotation of the term.

Similarly the question discussed by Ussher in his Annals of the Old and New Testaments, by Kennedy in his New Method of Scripture Chronology, by R. G. Faussett in his Symmetry of Time, and many other writers, as to the exact month, day and hour at which the first year of the life of Adam [PAGE 64] began, whether at the autumnal or at the vernal Equinox, cannot be decisively determined.

The following considerations make it appear probable that the original point of departure for the year was the autumnal Equinox, and that this was changed at the Exodus by Divine command, to the vernal Equinox, at all events, as far as the Hebrew people were concerned, whilst other nations may have continued to reckon their New Year's Day from the autumnal Equinox, or may have invented Eras of their own. We know that the later Jews Hellenized their calendar, introducing the principle of intercalation, and using the Greek Metonic cycle of 19 years for this purpose, instead of adhering to the Mosaic principle of direct observation, and eschewing astronomical calculations altogether.

(1) The order of the "evening and the morning" which formed the first day suggests by analogy the propriety of making the year also commence in the autumn.

(2) The autumnal season of harvest, when the fruits of the earth were ripe, seems to be the most appropriate time of the year for the appearance of man on the earth which had been specially prepared for him.

(3) The change of "the first month of the year" to Abib or Nisan occurring at the spring of the year (Exodus 12:2, 13:4, Deut. 16:1) suggests that up to that time the first month of the year was the month which followed immediately upon the Autumnal Equinox. This fixing of Abib or Nisan as the first month of the year may, however, have been a return to the original mode of reckoning from the Creation and a rejection of the Egyptian method of reckoning by the Vague calendar year of exactly 365 days.

But it is not till we reach the fifth chapter of Genesis that we meet with our first definite chronological datum, and here we find a complete list of the ante-diluvian patriarchs. The list is as follows. We adopt the term Anno Hominis rather than Anno Mundi, for, as we have seen, the world was created "in the beginning." This was ages before the creation of Adam, the true starting point of every Chronology. Ussher's date, B.C. 4004, should be removed from Gen. 1:1, and placed at Gen. 1:26, or Gen. 5:1.

[PAGE 65]

The Ante-diluvian Patriarchs: From the Creation to the Flood.



Adam created (Gen. 5:1).


Age of Adam at birth of Seth (Gen. 5:3).


Seth born.


Add age of Seth at birth of Enos (Gen. 5:6).


Enos born.


Add age of Enos at birth of Cainan (Gen. 5:9).


Cainan born.


Add age of Cainan at birth of Mahalaleel (Gen. 5:12).


Mahalaleel born.


Add age of Mahalaleel at birth of Jared (Gen. 5:15).


Jared born.


Add age of Jared at birth of Enoch (Gen. 5:18).


Enoch born.


Add age of Enoch at birth of Methuselah (Gen. 5:21).


Methuselah born.


Add age of Methuselah at birth of Lamech (Gen. 5:25).


Lamech born.


Add age of Lamech at birth of Noah (Gen. 5:28).

1056. Noah born.


Add age of Noah at the Flood (Gen. 7:6).

1656. The Flood.

The design of this genealogical list is to give a Chronology of the period from Adam to the Flood. The line chosen is the line of Noah the preserver of the race, the line of the promised Messiah the Redeemer of the race. It must not be assumed that the son named in each generation is either always or generally the eldest son of his father. This is not stated, it is not suggested, it is not implied. Certainly Seth is not the eldest son of Adam, nor is Shem the eldest son of Noah, though he is mentioned in this list (Gen. 5:32) before his eldest brother Japheth (Gen. 10:21). Moses selects from the genealogical family records only those entries which relate to the chosen people, and those other races who are brought into contact with them in the course of their later history. The line of Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is selected because to them was given the promise of the "Seed," in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed. The theme of the Old Testament is the Redeemer. All its selections are governed, and all its omissions are explained, by this fact.

That the interest of the recorder of these Tables was chronological, may be inferred from the careful attention which he has paid to the subject of Chronology, and the very precise nature, and chronological form of the statements made respecting the ages of each of the Patriarchs. It may also be inferred from the fact that though he gives the descendants of the line of Cain, he attaches no Chronology to that line; his chronological purpose [PAGE 66] is served if the succession of events is accurately and fully recorded along the one line of succession which he adopts as his chronological Era.

The number of the years of the life of each of the Patriarchs is mentioned, in addition to the years before and after the birth of the son named, probably in order to show by this double statement that however extraordinary the length of the life of the Patriarch, there is no mistake about the accuracy of the figures. There is no reason to doubt the fact that our first fathers were endowed with a better physical frame, which enabled them to live a longer life than the men of the present day. The attempt to interpret the names of these men as the eponymous names of tribes or dynasties, or to give the word "year" a different signification from that which it ordinarily bears, or to discount the narrative as mythical, and the personages named in it as fictitious, is a fallacy induced by a presumed, but false analogy between the Biblical narrative and the legendary accounts of the origins of other nations, or by the gratuitous assumption that as things are to-day, so they always have been, and always will be. We have the same authority for believing that Adam was 930 when he died, that we have for believing that Joseph was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh, and 110 when he died.

The narrative nowhere states, and it must not be understood to imply, that each succeeding Patriarch was born on the very day on which his father attained the age named at his birth. As the purpose of the list is chronological, it must be interpreted to mean that the fractions of a year which are not mentioned are included in the age of the father. Moses intended his calculations to be both accurate and complete. He reckons by complete years, and gives the whole of the year in which the son is born to the age of the father at his son's birth. This is proved by the two instances of Methuselah and Noah. Methuselah's age at death is stated to have been 969 years (Gen. 5:27) but he was only 968 years, 1 month and 17 days old, plus whatever fraction of the year of his birth was included in the 65th year of his father Enoch, when the Flood began. Noah's age when the Flood was upon the earth is given as 600 years (Gen. 7:6), but it was only on the 17th day of the 2nd month of his 600th year that the fountains of the deep were broken up (Gen. 7:11). These statements are given by Moses in order to explain the technical principles on which the Chronology is built. Those who make them into "discrepancies" are self-convicted, (1) of an error of interpretation, and (2) of attributing to the author the mistake which has been made by themselves.

Moses' tables of the Patriarchs, like Ptolemy's Canon of Kings, are constructed on astronomical principles. The numbers taken collectively constitute an uninterrupted series of true, tropical solar years, and register with astronomic accuracy the number of solar revolutions from the creation of Adam to the death of Joseph, which no Chronologer who accepts the statements of the Hebrew Text can make either one year more, or one year less, than 2369. Adam lived 930 years. The first year of his life runs parallel with the year Anno Hominis 1. The year in which he died runs parallel with AN. HOM. 930. Seth was born in the 130th year of Adam's life, the year AN. HOM. 130. It is not suggested that the Patriarchs were all born at the autumnal Equinox, or [PAGE 67] all on the same day of the same month of the year. The years are integral, and take no account of fractions. The year of Seth's birth is reckoned to Adam. The 131st year of Adam's life, the year AN. HOM. 131, is reckoned as the 1st year of the life of Seth. Hence, we may safely conclude that Moses' reckoning of years is inclusive, and Noah is said to be 600 years old at the beginning, and not at the end of his 600th year.

The numbers given in this genealogical list are characterized by the strictest regard for accuracy and precision. This is confirmed by the fact that since Ussher, no Chronologer who has adopted the numbers given in the Hebrew Text as the basis of his calculation, has ever failed to fix the Flood in the year AN. HOM. 1656, and the death of Joseph in the year AN. HOM. 2369.

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